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Price Realized: $35,000 With Buyer's Premium Show Hammer Price
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Sale 2516 Lot 272
Lithograph, 1932. 413x335 mm; 16 1/4x13 1/4 inches, full margins. Signed, dated and numbered 100/100 in pencil, lower margin. A superb impression of this large, scarce and important lithograph.
Rivera (1886-1957), who helped establish the Mexico Mural Movement and was a leading artistic figure in Social Realism, was born in Guanajuato in North-Central Mexico. His well-to-do family encouraged his artistic avidity from a young age; his parents installed chalkboards and canvases around the house after coming home one afternoon to find the walls covered in their toddler's drawings. In 1897, Rivera began studying at the oldest art school in Latin America, the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City (now the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes). He remained until 1907 (three years before the start of the Mexican Revolution) at which point he left for Europe to continue his artistic practice. Rivera spent the better part of the next 14 years abroad, mainly in Paris, where he was deeply involved in the thriving avant-garde art scene. He was well-connected to the artistic circle in Montparnasse and was friends with Amedeo Modigliani, who painted several portraits of him in 1914.
Despite his absence from Mexico, Rivera intently followed the political situation at home. The Mexican Revolution ended in 1920, after a decade of bloodshed and political upheaval. The new government, led by Álvaro Obregón, decided to utilize art as a vehicle to unify society and promote their values of equality. Rivera was recruited for this effort; the Mexican government prompted him to first take a tour of Italy to study Renaissance frescos (this classical influence is readily apparent in his work) and then to return to Mexico as a muralist. The country's Minister of Education commissioned local artists, among them Rivera, to create murals around Mexico City to celebrate the lives of the working class and the indigenous people. Rivera embraced the projects and, as a result of them, quickly gained recognition and prominence as a leading muralist in Mexico.
Rivera was simultaneously garnering the attention of the Soviet Union for his outspoken support of Communism. In 1928, while in Russia on an invitation from the government, Rivera met Alfred J. Barr, future director of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Their friendship, as well as the admiration and patronage of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, an avid collector of his work and one of the founding members of the museum, led to Rivera's one-man show at The MoMA in 1931, an event that brought the artist into the American mainstream. Rivera created five "portable murals" specifically for the exhibition, completing them in the six weeks between his arrival in New York and the exhibition opening. The show caused a buzz with the press and was a success with the public, solidifying Rivera's status in America. His work was so well received that he completed three additional murals of New York scenes after the exhibition and received numerous additional mural commissions across America (notably the Detroit Industry Murals, 1932-33, for the Ford Motor Company).
Carl Zigrosser, director of the Weyhe Gallery and an advocate of modern Mexican art, met the artist while he was in New York for his MoMA exhibition. Zigrosser recognized Rivera's rising popularity and encouraged him to embrace lithography as a way to capitalize on his success and disseminate his art. Imagery from his murals inspired (and in some cases was replicated in) his lithographs, such as meditations on his heritage and identity, Mexican history, political strife and the celebration of the working class. The artist created only fourteen prints in his entire career, mainly lithographs published by the Weyhe Gallery, as well as one linoleum cut in the late 1930s in Mexico.
Estimate $20,000 - 30,000Price Realized (with Buyer's Premium) $35,000